Ritual Form

This post will serve as a sort of overview and I would even dare say a template for rituals. Of course, every ritual is different and of a personal nature so every ritual will differ. Every Sabbat has its own attributes (but you can read about that under the "Sabbats" section) and even the Esbats can greatly differ from one another.

 I would like to note that I will write the spoken parts of the ritual in italics under the action that precedes it or is done at the same time as speaking. I would like to thank a certain person for helping me write this post by sending me an example of one of his rituals for the sake of comparison. In the Croatian version of this post, I wrote down what he says, but in this post I will combine his rituals with mine (since I do my rituals in English anyway).

BUT! Just because there will be examples of what to say, doesn't mean you have to say (or even do) everything like it is written here. In fact, I encourage you to write your own invocations, evocations and basically rituals in general because it is in this way that the ritual also becomes more powerful.

So let's begin...

What do you need for your ritual? You can read about this in an older post entitled "Ritual Tools" (in the Basics section). Everything is explained there in detail, but I will just list the tools you need here so you don't have to dig around all the time. I have colored the tools I think are obligatory in blue and I have left the optional tools in white. Again, this depends on you so you can change some things if you like :) And as I have already said, I don't expect you to have all of these tools in the beginning phases of your practical works so use what you have and get what you need in time :) 

Ritual Tools

(blue - obligatory, white - optional)
  • an altar
  • athamé / wand
  • a cord / chalk / something else for marking
  • candles for the four quarters
  • candles for other purposes (e.g. for filling empty spaces on the circle perimeter i.e. in between the quarter candles)
  • an altar candle
  • symbols of the Goddess and God
  • dishes for water and salt (but don't forget the water and salt also)
  • incense and an incense holder
  • matches / a lighter
  • a pentacle
  • a chalice and plate / a bowl for food (Cakes and Wine)
  • ritual oil
  • a sword
  • a staff
  • a bell
  • a white-handled knife
  • cords
  • ritual clothes and jewelry
  • decorations (depending on the occasion)
  • other fitting objects for Sabbats and Esbats
Even though I have defined some tools as "obligatory", you don't have to use them if you think that you don't need them or if you haven't had a chance to get them yet or preferably make them yourselves (you can read more about that in the "Ritual Tools" post I mentioned above). 

Now that we know what we need for our ritual, we can continue with the form of the ritual, which is our primary interest :)

Organizing Your Ritual Space

Of course, before you begin, you have to set everything up, which means you have to put your altar in the middle of your circle (or to-be-circle space). Some will put it in the East of the circle, but I would definitely recommend you are facing the East at all times (so turn you altar in that direction). Put everything you need on your altar or in their other usual places (remember that now all of your ritual tools have to be on your altar), set all the candles in their places (quarter candles and other ones), arrange the decorations and anything else that fits under the category of "other fitting objects for the occasion".

Here is a small diagram...I made it according to the way in which I arrange everything on my altar, but before it I have put two smaller diagrams which who the correspondences between the Elements and the cardinal points but also between the Elements and the pentacle so you can see more clearly why some things are put in certain places in the circle/on the altar.

This is the way I arrange things for practical reasons (so I don't knock down a candle or something), but you can move things around to suite your needs or to fit exactly the above diagrams of the Elements or cardinal points (look at the correspondences in the "Ritual Tools" post where you will see which tools correspond to which Element and so on). Also, ma altar is rectangular so that's why I drew this diagram like this. Yours can look differently, of course.

If you were to arrange everything "according to the books" (every tool on its cardinal point and according to its corresponding Element), your circle would look something like this (not including the additional tools you could add).

When you have arranged everything the way you want it and made sure you have everything you need, you can begin with the actual ritual :)

Ritual Form

(Note: from this point, anything that is spoken during the ritual will be written in italics and it will be written below the action that precedes it. I will also be speaking in the first person because these really aren't rules or even guidelines; this is just me retelling how I do my rituals which doesn't make this the perfect way for you to do your rituals)

1. Opening the Circle/Erecting the Temple

These are the names that are used for the first part of any ritual (just to be clear, both refer to the same thing) which includes cleansing the ritual space so you can work in it undisturbed, without negative energy and so the circle itself can be perceived as something outside of your daily routine (as something special). This extraordinariness is exactly what makes any ritual a ritual. And also, this act will also serve to better you contact with the Goddess and God. You can do this by walking around the space intended for your ritual with a broom (you can actually sweep it, but this isn't necessary) or by walking with incense around the room. It is also possible to cleanse the space with sounds (by singing, drumming, ringing a bell), or by affusion (sprinkling cleansed water around, though I leave this part for the part of the ritual where I cleanse the space with the physical elements). If you like, you can also bless your altar and/or ritual tools (which isn't the same as cleansing and consecrating them) by simply clearly and firmly stating that they are blessed.

If you want to prepare yourself both energetically and mentally, now is the time to center and ground yourself. By centering yourself, you bring everything into balance and really penetrate into your very core. This can be done by visualizing a shining ball somewhere around your heart which becomes brighter and purer every time you breathe in. With every exhale you relieve yourself or any negative thoughts and your everyday problems. By doing this, you try to achieve balance. Grounding is the process of borrowing energy from the ground and/or the universe so you can do you ritual as best you can (especially if you're planning to do a demanding religious or magical ritual). You can ground yourself with another visualization where the shining ball from before descends through your spine into the ground where it goes deeper and deeper until it has gathered enough energy. You then visualize it returning to its starting point and, if you want to connect to the universe, you can also visualize it floating up through your vertex and going higher and higher constantly taking in the universe's energy. It then returns back into your body. You should now feel filled with positive energy and ready to begin your ritual by opening the circle.

When I open the circle, I begin by marking the perimeter of the circle (some do this with chalk, some with cords etc.). Since I cannot leave marks on the floor and prefer not to have cords lying around, I just mark it by drawing an imaginary circle with my athamé which will later become energetic. Besides, this circle is only for me most of the time, so there really is no need for a physical marker in my case. How to mark the circle you ask? Well, I begin in the East and work my way over the south, west and north quarter candles and return to my starting point. When you walk (or do anything) clockwise, like in this case, in Wicca it is called going deosil. In stead of the athamé, you can use a wand or your forefinger. If there are more people present, this can be done by singing, dancing, or by transferring energy along with a visualization which is lead by the priest/priestss (the transfer of energy can occur by holding hands, through a hug, kiss etc.).
"Let it be known that the temple shall be erected and the circle cast."
Everything usually starts in the east side of the circle because of the Sun rising there and this is an important symbol in Wicca because of its connection to the God (whose symbol is the Sun). 

Now that the circle is defined, I return to my altar and light the altar candle on which I will later light my incense. I then light all the other candles on the altar candle starting from the East and going deosil. But don't forget to return them to their place as soon as you light them. You can carry your altar candle with you when you light these candles because it saves time and is just easier.

I light the east candle with my altar candle while saying:
"Here, in the East, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it."
I light the south candle while saying:
"Here, in the South, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it."
I light the west candle while saying:
"Here, in the West, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it." 
I light the north candle while saying:
"Here, in the North, I bring light and air in order to illuminate my temple and breathe life into it." 
After this, it is necessary to cleanse the physical elements before marking the circle with them. 
I put the tip of my athamé/wand into the bowl of salt:
"Salt is life. May it cleanse me in every way; may it cleanse my body and my soul because I devote myself to the Goddess and God in this ritual."
 I put a pinch of salt in the bowl of water to cleanse it:
"May this sacred salt remove and impurities from this water so I may use it in this rite."
Now I begin to mark the circle with the elements (everything is done deosil starting from the East, after which you walk a full circle back to the starting point and return to the altar).

- I light the incense on my altar candle and walk with it swaying it gently (if it is a censer) or wave it around slowly (if we're talking about incense sticks) so the smoke can disperse itself:
"I cleanse this circle with the element of Air."
- I take my altar candle in my hand and walk a full circle with it:

"I cleanse this circle with the element of Fire."
 - I walk holding the bowl of water in my hand and sprinkle water over the perimeter of the circle:

"I cleanse this circle with the element of Water."
- I walk holding the bowl of salt and sprinkle some salt on the perimeter of the circle:
"I cleanse this circle with the element of Earth."
(Some people will choose to walk around the circle only three times altogether: once with the athamé, once with the incense which can serve as a symbol of both Fire and Air (smoke=Air, fire with which it was lit=Fire) and once with the water which has in itself the salt which symbolizes Earth)

After this, I visualize the protection of the circle.
I do this by visualizing a sphere around myself which is tall enough for me to stand in and follows the perimeter of the circle. It should be best if this sphere is "elastic" so you don't break it if you accidentally touch it or step over it. I visualize white light filling it completely (but you can think of another color if you have one that you prefer better) and establish that this sphere can only take in positive energy. Negative energy has nothing to do there. After the visualization I say:
"May the circle be open."
 If you like, you can now mark yourself with the ritual oil on your forehead (by pressing your thumb to it or drawing a pentagram with your forefinger). I prefer not to use oil at all, but this is your choice.
Even if you don't decide to do this, you can still say the following to finish the opening of the circle:
"I consecrate myself in the name of the God and the Goddess and give them a warm welcome into this circle." 

2. Invoking the Elements 

The Elements are invoked to protect you during your ritual and give you support. I plan to write a separate post on the difference of Elements and Elementals, but for now I think it's important to know that Elements are the term you are looking form in the beginning, while Elementals are beings which are thought to be the embodiments of the Elements (Gnomes, Salamander etc.) and its quite difficult to work with them and often ends up complicated so I wouldn't recommend calling up Elementals but rather the Elements.

Do the following while standing at your altar. I take up my athamé/wand and point it at the according cardinal point (starting again with the East).

-I invoke the element of Air in the East:
"Greetings to the element of Air, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the East. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle."
-I invoke the element of Fire in the South:
"Greetings to the element of Fire, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the South. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
-I invoke the element of Water in the West:
"Greetings to the element of Water, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the West. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
-I invoke the element of Earth in the North:
"Greetings to the element of Earth, the Guardian of the Watchtower of the North. May you be ever strong in protecting this circle." 
After each sentence you can (but don't have to) draw and invoking pentagram as shown in the picture below.

I, for example, usually use the invoking pentagram of Water for everything because it comes naturally to me and because water the element I am closest to. Normally the invoking pentagram of Earth is used for every invocation, but the choice is yours. You don't even have to use pentagrams in the beginning (or at all) if you find them confusing or just simply don't like them.

3. Invoking the Goddess and God

Invoking the Goddess and God can be very simple, but also very complicated. It all depends on the way you decide to do it.

Here's how my friends does it. He stands at his altar and raises his athamé towards the sky
"Hail to the quarters and hail to the Gods. I give my greetings to the Lord and Lady and invite them to join me and witness this ritual that I hold in their honor."
He chooses to eat and drink something after this as a sort of toast to the Gods, but I recommend leaving the cakes and wine (i.e. food and drinks) for the grounding part of the ritual which comes after the whole ritual (I'll explain it later).

I prefer to hold a short speech in honor of the God and Goddess because they certainly deserve at least this if each element gets a sentence or two.

When reading coven rituals, you will probably come across the term Drawing down the Moon which is actually a way of invoking the Goddess. It is thought that the Goddess enters the body of the Priestess when this ritual is performed. You will also see the term Fivefold kiss (a kiss given by the High Pries to the High Priestess during the Drawing down the Moon rite, but also a way of awakening the Goddess in the Priestess and expressing the God's love for the Goddess). After this, the Priestess speaks the Charge of the Goddess and the coven dances the Witches' Rune dance (a dance lead by the High Priestess with the goal of raising energy in the circle) during which songs are sung. I think this isn't the place to start explaining all these terms in detail because it would take far too long and besides, this post is meant of you Solitaries out there and not coven work (which you can read up on in basically any book on Wicca). In time, I will write something about all of these smaller rites, but I'll put them aside for the time being.

Anyway, as a replacement for all of this, you can write your own speech/poem with which you can invoke the Goddess and God. For now, I think it will be enough for you to write a something for each of them and find a simpler system for raising energy in your circle that fits you best (visualizations, chanting, movements like dancing, spinning, running or something similar to this). 

I will let you do the writing or else there would be no end to this post :)

4. Esbat and Sabbat Rituals

Depending on what Sabbat it is, now is the time to welcome the God and Goddess into your circle in an appropriate way and show respect to that time of year and Sabbat that celebrates it. In the aforementioned "Sabbats" section, you will find separate posts for each Sabbat with traditions for each one that you can incorporate into your own rituals.

If you are also celebrating and Esbat (full moon), then it is also appropriate to practice any form of divination technique (tarot cards, runes, the black scrying mirror etc.). This is done after the Sabbat ritual usually. Also, this is the best time for and magickal rituals you want to do and for cleansing tools/talismans/whatever. This is when bigger emphasis is put on the Goddess' power since the full moon is in itself the height of the moon's energy and a fitting symbol for the Mother phase of the Goddess. You can also thank the Goddess and God for anything at this time, and if you think you have been good enough, you can even ask them for something :)

 As I said in the invocations section of this post, I'll let you write this on your own primarily because it is of a great personal nature.

No matter what the occasion, a good idea would be to raise the energy at this point. The whole poing of raising energy is to achieve an alternate state of consciousness and raise the energy of the circle in general in order to channel it towards a certain goal (e.g. a magical work or contacting a deity which usually follows this) or perhaps towards the food and drink (which should always come after this step). You can find out more on this in my post on raising group energy where you can read about the various techniques which can be used to do this (of course, you can alter all of it to fit the number of people attending the ritual).

5. Cakes and Wine

This is the "official" name for food and drinks in Wicca. Eating and drinking after a ritual is used as a form of grounding (bringing yourself "back to Earth", or more precisely said - earthing). Namely, energy has surrounded you and been an integral part of you quite a bit by now and it is now time to return to the real world. You will probably feel a bit confused and separated from the physical world so this is a good thing to do. The best way to return to the real world is to get as much physical contact as you can and what better way than to actually consume physical food and drinks.

The most commonly consumed food is any form of cakes and wine is usually drunk. I, for example, don't drink wine or beer so I have to find replacements. I adapt each Sabbat to myself. Sometimes I drink apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice, milk (always for Esbats), some sort of liquor etc. Though take into account the time of year because it makes no sense to celebrate that season if you drink orange juice and oranges can't be seen anywhere around you at that time of year. You'll want to have everything as natural as possible in the circle so don't forget to think about this and it's also nice if you can make the food yourself (both because you put more energy into the ritual that way which makes it more powerful but because you will also know what that food is made of which makes it less "fake"). 

I will give good examples of seasonal food and drinks in each Sabbat post and for the Esbat, I recommend you drink milk (the ultimate symbol of motherhood and as I said, the full moon is the symbol of the Mother phase of the Goddess).

You can also take some time for a short meditation before you start to eat and drink. My friend wrote the following nicely:
"I relax, breathe deeply, calm down and become aware of the earth/floor I am sitting on. My feet (or if you are sitting, your spine) are on the ground and I visualize tree roots growing from down my spine into the earth itself. I feel on with the earth from which i receive energy. I stay like this for a while. I then take back the roots into myself being aware of the energy that now circulates through my body."
Before you begin to eat and drink, it is necessary to consecrate the food and drinks. Here is how my friend does it:

Before a full chalice of beer (or any drink of your taste) I say:
"It is time for me to thank the Gods for their help. So mote it be."
I put the tip of my athamé/wand inside the drink and say:
"May man unite with woman in this way in mutual happiness. May the fruits of this unity heighten life. May everyone be fertile and may abundance spread throughout the lands."
I speak before the plate of food:
"This food is a blessing from the Gods. May we freely share everything and while doing so remember that we share with those that have less than ourselves." 
Except with the athamé/wand, the food and drink can be consecrated by placing your hands on/above them or by channeling group energy towards it (though this can be done by only one person as well). A libation is often performed (a small quantity of the drink is poured out into a libation dish) and a bit of the food is left aside - these play the role of the sacrifice. Before you start to eat/drink, you can also give a toast to the gods and give thanks to them for what you have.

While eating, meditate on the meaning of the food you are eating and on the meaning of that specific Esbat or Sabbat ritual.

6. Thanking the Goddess and God 

You cannot chase the Gods or the Elements out of your circle because that would be very impolite. They are your guests and you have to be polite and say goodbye to them in a respectful way.

I do this while standing at my altar and saying something like:
"As I came into my temple in love and friendship, so I leave it. Let me radiate this love outwards and share it with those that I meet.
I thank the Goddess and God, whom I invoked and from whom I asked for help. I thank you for watching over me, guarding me and leading me in all that I do. (Love is the law, love is the bond.) Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again. The circle will now be closed."  

7. Dismissing the Quarters

Perhaps "dismissing" isn't the best verb to be used because it is usually used in an impolite context. This is more of a "bidding farewell".

Like before, I begin in the East and go deosil. I bid farewell to the elements by going to each quarter (East, South etc.) and blowing/snuffing out each quarter candle. You can (but don't have to) use the banishing pentagrams that were shown previously. I personally don't like to "banish" anything, because it seems rather unfriendly and I will want to stay on friendly terms with the Elements since I will invite them into my circle again shortly.

When I reach each quarter, I say, holding my athamé/wand upwards:
-in the East
"I thank the element of Air for protecting my circle. Go in peace."
-in the South
"I thank the element of Fire for protecting my circle. Go in peace."
-in the West
"I thank the element of Water for protecting my circle. Go in peace." 
-in the North
"I thank the element of Earth for protecting my circle. Go in peace." 
 Note: some people may prefer to close their circle widdershins (counterclockwise i.e. beginning in the East, then going to the North, West, South and returning to the East), while others will find that they prefer using this direction only when doing banishments. Others think than, by doing this, we unconsecrate everything that was previously consecrated. Then again, the decision is yours. I always go deosil, if that means anything :)

I then put down the athamé/wand and visualize the "deflating" of the sphere of light (remember the sphere you filled with light during the opening of the circle).  While doing so, I say:
"Praise be to the magickal Elements. I bid you farewell. So mote it be."
While visualizing the white light slowly fading, I also try to feel the Elements leaving the circle. This will help bring you back to the real world.

When you feel ready, walk around the circle (widdershins or deosil...whichever you have decided on) with your athamé and remark the perimeter while saying:
"The circle is now closed. So mote it me." 
Now be tidy and clear everything up after yourself (not that there will be much to tidy since there was no sacrificing of any sort and no blood to mop up :p).  After everything has been cleared, the only thing that should be left is your altar candle which you show now blow/snuff out also (this is left last partly for practical reasons because you may be working in the dark and can leave the circle to turn the lights back on only after you have closed the circle).

Note: Some will not like extinguishing the candle flames by blowing them out because they see this as air being superior to fire. If you find yourself thinking this, then you can just get a candle snuffer (or any old glass) and snuff out the candles. This is also nice because there is less smoke involved. There is also the belief that with every candle that is blow out, once soul is "killed". Though so many discussions have been lead on this subject, but I find it best if you don't concern yourselves with this just yet. Just do what feels natural to you :)

I'm guessing that all this reading tired you out, as did the writing part do the trick for me. But I hope it was worth it :) Not that I have carried out my promise, I leave you with a clear conscience :)

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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